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Austin to oppose plan to dump wastewater in Lake Travis

Friday, October 30, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Thursday that he and members of city staff would meet with staff of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) next week to express the city’s opposition to allowing any additional wastewater to be discharged into Lake Travis.


Austin will officially join LCRA and Travis County in objecting to release of wastewater into Lake Travis,” he said. “It is our water supply for Austin and we have to make sure that we protect the health and safety of our citizens.”


Leander and Granite Shoals have asked TCEQ to repeal rules forbidding municipal wastewater treatment facilities from discharging into the Highland Lakes and their tributaries.


Leffingwell added that he and Council Member Chris Riley would sponsor an item on next week’s City Council agenda outlining reasons for the city’s opposition. Travis County and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) have already said that repealing the rule could have a detrimental impact on Travis County, including land values.


Leffingwell said city environmental staff has concerns about the impact that release of more wastewater might have on water quality of the lakes. He said dumping treated effluent into a lake is different from releasing wastewater into a flowing river. Austin returns treated wastewater into the Colorado River.


LCRA has officially opposed efforts to lift the discharge ban, citing its own study, known as the Colorado River Environmental Model. They say the model can predict water quality changes to Lake Travis based on different variables, including changes to land use and wastewater discharges.


Allowing wastewater discharges into Lake Travis without removing nitrogen, for example, would have a negative impact on water quality, the LCRA says. Nitrogen is not generally removed in wastewater treatment, they note.

According to the LCRA, “Higher levels of nutrients in Lake Travis promote algae growth and affect water clarity. Water quality of the Highland Lakes is considered good to excellent. Lake Travis is considered one of the clearest lakes in Texas. The Highland Lakes are the source of water supply for more than 1 million Central Texans.”


Travis County Commissioners approved a resolution asking TCEQ not to overturn the ban earlier this week.

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